Brookline Commission on Disability

Concerns about the MBTA, Fall 2020

The flyer above states the following:

Attention! The MBTA is facing some hard choices about service cuts to cope with COVID-related budget shortfalls. If you have concerns, please go to and use the general feedback form at the bottom of the page. 

If you need assistance expressing your concerns, please contact Brookline's ADA Coordinator, Sarah E. Kaplan, at

Brookline's Commission on Disability & Office of Diversity, Inclusion, and Community Relations. 

Federal Court Approves Agreed Judgement in DLC’s Case to Ensure Accessible Vote by Mail for People with Disabilities

As Massachusetts registered voters prepare to submit their General Election ballots during this pandemic, Disability Law Center (DLC) would like to share the result of a case that we filed against the Secretary of the Commonwealth’s office in federal court to ensure accessible vote by mail for voters with disabilities. 

On Tuesday, October 13, 2020, U.S. District Court Judge Douglas P. Woodlock issued a Judgment in Rivero, et al. v. Galvin, et al., 1:20-cv-11808-DPW, a suit that DLC filed on October 2, 2020 on behalf of four individual plaintiffs, Boston Center for Independent Living (BCIL), and Bay State Council of the Blind (BSCB). In the Complaint, Memorandum of Law in Support of Motion for Preliminary Injunction, and Motion for Preliminary Injunction, plaintiffs alleged that the existing Accessible Vote by Mail (AVBM) program that the Secretary of the Commonwealth put in place shortly before the primary – following DLC’s filing of an emergency petition in the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court – failed to provide meaningful access to the voters with disabilities for whom it was created to accommodate in violation of Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. Specifically, the AVBM program prevented voters who are blind or have low vision, mobility/dexterity disabilities, or other disabilities that make it difficult or impossible for them to effectively access standard printed text (“print disabilities”) from casting their AVBM electronic ballots without third party assistance.

Per the terms of the Judgment issued on October 13, voters with print disabilities will now be able to cast their AVBM electronic ballots via email to the Secretary’s AVBM Coordinator, along with an accessible electronic affidavit that can be completed with a typewritten signature for voters whose disabilities prevent them from inserting a hand-drawn signature. Voters participating in the AVBM program may also still submit their electronic ballots by mail by printing and placing them in the envelopes provided by local election officials. This Judgment constitutes a critical victory ensuring that Massachusetts voters with disabilities can exercise their right to vote privately and independently in the upcoming general election without risking exposure to COVID-19 at the polls. DLC thanks our individual plaintiffs, BCIL, and BSCB for their efforts in getting this resolution. In addition, DLC recognizes the Secretary of the Commonwealth for his office’s willingness to respond to plaintiffs’ allegations and quickly negotiate the terms of this important Judgment. The processes that voters must follow to request access to and cast their ballots through the AVBM program is described on DLC’s website and updated information reflecting the changes ordered by the Judgment should be available soon on the Secretary’s website. 

While DLC encourages voters with print disabilities to apply as soon as possible, the Secretary must accept requests for accommodations and applications per the Judgment until 5:00 p.m. on October 28, 2020.

 DLC invites feedback from voters with disabilities who have difficulty getting access to the AVBM program or experience challenges completing the process to submit their ballots. If you encounter any difficulties, please contact the Disability Law Center (DLC) or call DLC at 617-723-8455.

How to Guide a Person With Vision Loss

The Town of Brookline, Massachusetts has just released a new instructional video telling and showing via demonstration clips how to guide a person with vision loss in a variety of everyday situations. This video is free to all and may be used by any agencies, organizations, groups, or individuals who find it useful. 

Many people would like to assist a person with vision loss when appropriate but hesitate because they do not know-how. People with vision loss often turn to strangers in various public places for assistance in getting to their desired location, whether it is to cross the street or to find an elevator in an office building or hospital. This new video offers standard instructional guiding techniques for people to understand the best approaches on how to guide someone with vision loss. 

During the Covid-19 pandemic, maintaining social distance when guiding a visually impaired person can be challenging. Modifications to the standard guiding techniques are recommended as we work together to mitigate the transmission of the virus. When guiding a visually impaired person, both the individual and the guide should be wearing masks and be facing in the same direction, so their breath is not directed towards one another. Using a glove can protect from skin-to-skin contact. 

"Educating the public on how to guide people safely with vision loss makes everyone more comfortable. These suggested modifications necessitated by the pandemic are certainly timely, said Paul Saner, Co-Chair of Brookline's Economic Development Advisory Board, and former Commissioner of the Massachusetts Commission for the Blind. "A sighted guide providing access while respecting social distancing furthers inclusion," he continued. 

Additional ideas for safe guiding while social distancing can include placing a hand on the guide's back instead of the arm, putting a shopping cart between the individual and the guide with the guide in front, using an adequately sanitized extra cane, as a guiding pole with each person holding one end, and verbal guiding from behind the person with vision loss. The person with vision loss should also be using their usual mobility aid, such as a cane or guide dog, for added safety. 

Produced by the Town’s Commission on Disability, along with Brookline Age-Friendly Cities TV and Brookline Interactive Group, the video is simple and offers repetition in the demonstrations to make learning and remembering easy.

Appearing in the demonstration video are Paul Saner, Brookline Town Meeting member, Co-Chair of Brookline's Economic Development Advisory Board, and former Commissioner of the Massachusetts Commission for the Blind, and Michael Allen, LCSW, Social Worker at the Brookline Senior Center. The video is narrated by Sassy Outwater-Wright, Executive Director, Massachusetts Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired. 

  • Saralynn Allaire, Chairperson 
  • James Miczek, Deputy Chairperson 
  • Henry Winkelman
  • Robert Heist 
  • Ann Kamensky
  • Joan Mahon 
  • Elaine Ober
  • James Lee
  • Nancy Moore
  • Select Board Member Heather Hamilton

SJC Judgement Issues in DLC’s Emergency Petition Concerning Accessible Electronic Vote by Mail 

 On August 21, 2020, DLC filed an Emergency Petition with the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts on behalf of six individual petitioners, Bay State Council of the Blind (BSCB), and the Boston Center for Independent Living (BCIL) concerning the unavailability of accessible electronic vote by mail for the fast-approaching September 1, 2020 primary. Per “An Act relative to voting options in response to COVID-19,” enacted on July 6, 2020, registered Massachusetts voters with disabilities are entitled to receive access to an accessible electronic vote by mail ballot as an accommodation from the Secretary of the Commonwealth (“Secretary”). This accommodation is intended to allow voters with disabilities the opportunity to electronically mark their ballot privately and independently using their own assistive technology, print their marked ballot, and mail or hand-deliver it to their local election official to be counted. By the date of filing, the Secretary had not provided the public with any information concerning the availability of accessible electronic vote by mail or the process for requesting that accommodation from the Secretary.  

Today, the Court entered a Judgement in the case concerning accessible electronic vote by mail concerning the special processes that will be made available to the voters with disabilities who seek access to an electronic ballot for the September 1, 2020 primaries, and retaining jurisdiction to resolve any further disputes. Please be aware, a part of this Judgement, the deadline for requesting access to an electronic ballot for the primary election has been extended from August 26, 2020 to August 28, 2020 at 12:00PM. The processes for requesting an accessible electronic ballot and for casting your electronic ballot for the fast-approaching primaries are described below.  

DLC thanks our individual petitioners, BSCB, and BCIL for their amazing assistance and support in getting this resolution, especially given the incredibly short amount of time left to secure any meaningful relief. However, DLC believes that much more progress needs to be made in ensuring that Massachusetts voters with disabilities have equal access to all voting programs for the upcoming November general election.  

DLC invites every voter who requires the accommodation of accessible electronic vote by mail in order to vote privately and independently who is not able to get access to an electronic ballot for the primaries to report the specific barriers that you experienced – whether due to the request for accommodation process, the technology available to you, or other reasons.  


How to Request an Accessible Electronic Ballot 

In order to get access to the Accessible Vote by Mail System, a voter must first submit a request for accommodation to Accessible Vote by Mail Coordinator electronically to by August 28, 2020 at 12:00PM. A voter may also reach the Coordinator by phone at 617-727-2828. 

As part of the request for accommodation for the September 1, 2020 primary election, the voter must first provide the Coordinator the following information: 

1. A statement confirming that the voter is registered to vote and requesting use of accessible vote by mail because of a disability;  

2. Full name (first, middle, last);  

3. Voter registration address (street address, city/town, zip code);  

4. Mailing address, if different that voter registration address; 

5. Date of birth;  

6. Email address; and  

7. Phone number.  

Second, the voter must email the Coordinator an electronic 2020 Vote by Mail Application available HERE with all of fields completed, including the date and signature (electronic signature is acceptable). If, because of your disability, you are unable to manually sign or add an electronic signature to the Application form, DLC urges you to  also state in your request for accommodation email that you also require an accommodation from the Secretary permitting you to type your name in the signature line of the Application form. 


How to Complete the Electronic Ballot and Cast Your Vote  

Once the request and Application are received and processed, the Accessible Vote by Mail Coordinator will contact the voter to provide further instructions. The voter’s email address and phone number are requested to ensure that the Accessible Vote by Mail Coordinator can provide the voter with information necessary to access the System.  

A voter approved for an Electronic Vote by Mail Ballot will receive a PIN from the Coordinator that will provide entry into the System to complete the Electronic Vote by Mail Ballot. The voter will also receive by email from the Coordinator an accessible electronic affidavit of compliance that must accompany the electronic ballot in order to be officially cast. In addition, the Coordinator will provide the voter will contact information for the voter’s local election office address.   

A voter approved for an Electronic Vote by Mail Ballot will also be mailed by first-class mail an inner envelope where electronic ballot is placed after voting that has on it an affidavit of compliance to be filled out by the voter (signature line indicated by hole punch) that is similar in substance to the electronic affidavit of compliance, and an outer envelope that is pre-addressed to the local election official with postage guaranteed. BECAUSE THE PRE-ADDRESSED, POSTAGE PAID ENVELOPE FROM THE LOCAL ELECTION OFFICE MAY NOT ARRIVE IN TIME FOR YOUR BALLOT TO BE COUNTED BY THE SEPTEMBER 1, 2020 PRIMARY, voters may alternatively mail their completed and printed Electronic Vote by Mail Ballot and electronic affidavit of compliance in the voter’s own envelope with necessary postage.  

The envelope containing a completed Electronic Vote by Mail Ballot and signed affidavit of compliance must either be mailed to your local election office or hand-delivered to your local election office, an official ballot return box, or to an early voting location during early voting hours.  


COVID-19 Resource Guide for Brookline residents with disabilities

Do you have PCAs? Are you in need of PPE?

PPE is available for PCAs free of charge from SEIU. Go to and register to get masks if needed. First come, first served. Supplies are limited. 

Check with your insurance provider (MassHealth or otherwise) regarding gloves or other PPE. Gloves are often covered by insurance. You can get a prescription through your doctor sent directly to your local pharmacy, and they will fill it. Some pharmacies have programs to deliver prescriptions if needed.  

Town of Brookline Parking Map with Handicap Parking Spots 

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The mission of the Brookline Commission on Disability is to enhance the quality of life for all persons with any form of disability. We strive to learn about and rectify obstacles on Brookline’s streets and sidewalks, barriers in public and private buildings, or a lack of full compliance in programs, services, and activities which may impede full access and equal opportunity for all citizens. The Commission seeks to foster a town culture in which the needs of all persons with disabilities are understood and addressed.

AAB Variances

Please send copies of AAB Variance applications to BCOD Chairperson: Saralynn Allaire 157 Bellingham Rd Chestnut Hill, MA 02467

Agendas & Minutes

Agendas are available prior to the meetings. Minutes are available following approval.
Most Recent Agenda | View All Agendas and Minutes

30th Anniversary of the ADA

Upcoming Events 

ADA 30 Virtual Rally - July 22, 2020

This year marks the 30th anniversary of the signing of the American’s with Disabilities Act of 1990. While we recognize how much the ADA has increased accessibility for those in the disability community, we also know that there is still a lot of work left to do to ensure equitable access for all.

Every year in Boston, the Mayor’s Commission for Persons with Disabilities hosts a gathering on City Hall Plaza to celebrate the anniversary of the ADA. Our annual “ADA Day” event provides information, food, music, a speaking program, and collectible t-shirts. But more than this, our event gives people with disabilities a valuable opportunity to connect with one another.

This year, we won’t be able to gather in person for the anniversary of the ADA - but we will still be able to connect with each other! Our Commission is collaborating with the Boston Center for Independent Living to host a virtual event - not just to look back at the progress we’ve made in the last thirty years, but to look to the future of disability rights with a focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion.

Our ADA 30 BOSTON event will be held online this year, on Wednesday, July 22nd, from 1:00 - 2:30 pm. Among guest speakers is longtime disability rights activists Judy Heumann, Courtland Townes III and Sandy Ho. Pre-recorded messages on the ADA have been lined up from Governor Baker, Congresswoman Pressley, Mayor Walsh, and Attorney General Healey, among others. You can register for the event here.

There is one very special part of our annual ADA event that we will still be able to offer to participants this year - our ADA t-shirts! If you’d like us to send you an ADA 30 BOSTON t-shirt in the mail, just fill out this form. Once you receive your t-shirt, send us a picture of yourself wearing the shirt and we’ll post it to our virtual ADA 30 Boston community!

Kennedy Institute Events

As the 30th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) approaches, the Edward M. Kennedy Institute is "pleased to announce two upcoming programs to commemorate the landmark legislation. We hope that you will join us for these exciting programs that will be available virtually across the country."

To learn more about the two upcoming July 2020 events, and to register, please visit: the Edward M. Kennedy Institute's Upcoming Programs